This is the cure to FOMO – you can see what is happening around you by logging on to this app and deciding if you want to be a part of it or not. Maybe standing in line for Nashville North for 4 hours isn’t worth the drunken, smelly mess that is inside. I used Tang for the first time on Tuesday night when I went to the Cowboys tent to see Thomas Rhett. It’s super cool because you can see everyone’s posts that are in your (set) radius. So unlinke Snapchat I don’t have to commit to following anyone to see what kind of night they are having. Sounds like a win-win right?
I had the chance to sit down and chat with the co-founders of Tang and see how they came up with this brilliant idea and where they are taking it. The two boys are native Calgarians who grew up together and are now Tang business partners. Brad Williamson graduated in 2015 from MRU with a business degree majoring in marketing & management. He has been a part of a number of great startups but Tang is the first one that “had enough legs to be brought to market.”
He broke into the technology industry when he finished his minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2013. He attended a Startup Weekend event in Calgary and then right after found himself down in San Francisco pitching a wedding app idea at the Twitter Headquarters with his team. “After that, I was hooked and kept searching for the right ideas to pursue.”
On the other hand of the app, Jamie Bertram graduated from U of C with a software engineering degree in 2015. He has always been incredibly tech-savvy – hence the call to help develop the app. His entrepreneurial side started when he ran a student works painting franchise. Tang is Jamie’s first tech startup, but his entrepreneurial knowledge tied in with his technical knowledge was a great fit to be the co-founder of Tang. “The learning curve has been steep, keeping a company lean and often struggling to pay ourselves, but it has been a blast growing the company from idea to inception.”
How would you explain Calgary’s technological scene?
Calgary’s tech scene is an incredibly supportive and fun environment to be involved in. It has grown since 2013 and continues to grow as layoffs happen and people turn to a more entrepreneurial lifestyle. Capital resources here are harder to come by that San Francisco, and sometimes pitching requires a lot of industry education to early investors who know less about it. People are receptive to hearing ideas like Tang, and tend to follow the company for a while and see our progress before deciding to invest.
The tightest-knit group that we are involved with is the MRU Innovation and Entrepreneurship group. They are great for providing feedback, support, and everyone is like-minded and very transparent with their thoughts.
It was the perfect environment for Tang which was so creatively thought of while debating to make the trek down to the Red Mile in the 2015 playoff run. “We wanted to know if it was worth going down to the Red Mile, but given that it was a Tuesday, we weren’t sure. We checked out our Snapchats, and none of our friends were down there, so we couldn’t see, so we went on Instagram and searched #redmile, and there was a throwback to 2004 and a 2-week old post. Useless. We found ourselves wishing for an open (anyone can see it), geographic alternative to Snapchat, which is where the idea developed from.”
The name started with the branding. “We didn’t want to get too caught up on the name when we were designing early-iterations of the app, but we looked at all of the popular colours in social media and saw that orange isn’t very prominent. Dull blues, yellow, and green were popular, but no orange. Orange, if you look up the emotion behind the colour, is vibrant, energetic, warm, fun, and not too aggressive. This made sense because that’s the same feel we wanted with the app.”
“When it came time to decide on a name, Tang was a natural fit. It is short, you can verbalize it (Just tanging right now), and when something tastes tangy, it is a quick, sharp taste. Just like the posts.”
Give me a rundown of the app. Why should people download it?
We launched on July 5th after getting back from a 3-week long trip in San Francisco (which happened in May). When we were down there, we shifted our strategy to capture a first-user market (which is approaching 1,000 users). In order to do so, we partnered with a number of Stampede bars and events (Knoxvilles, Wildhorse Saloon, Stampede Roundup and Oxford Stomp), and also added some other popular hot-spots including Cowboys, the Stampede Grounds, Nashville North, and Ranchman’s, to the app. When people post at those locations (no hashtags necessary), it shows up under the location they’re at, and people who view the app can get a sense of what’s happening at those locations before going down there. No more waiting in line for 2 hours just to be disappointed.
That is what’s going on specifically for Stampede.
Besides Stampede which will be over in a few days anyways, the real reason the app exists is so people can see what others are up to around them. If you’re a college student, new in town, you might not know that there is a rager going on in the residence building next to you, or that 2 floors down, there’s a slip and slide in the hallway (yes, very American college, but that’s where the focus is headed come September). You can see the most popular posts happening within 5, 10, 20, 50, 100km, or worldwide. When you post on Tang, you set a time-limit to the posts, between 2-minutes and 48 hours, add a caption, including hashtags, and all posts are geo-tagged, so that others can see that there is a #party within 5km.
What is the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
Waking up, excited to go to work, being a part of something that you can really be passionate about, and having real decision making power in the direction of an ever-evolving company. It’s a really cool experience and the company’s successes and failures are something you really care about. In addition to that, taking calculated risks and seeing them pay off is one of the greatest feelings ever.
There are also challenges that come and go. Not surprisingly money was a key obstacle to keep moving forward. Additionally, throughout development, it was a challenge to ensure they were getting the right feedback to build the product to fit the wants and needs of their target audience. “Now that the first version of the product is out there, it is keeping our users engaged during and after Stampede.”
Brad and Jamie’s advice for entrepreneurs: “Just go. No startup happens in ideal circumstances. It’s unlikely that you will find a co-founder who has the ability to do 40 hours a week for free, so put some money in, and start paying them. Show constant progression to your supporters, and talk about what you’re working on to anyone who may be able to help you out or could be a customer down the line.”
“Tang is bigger than just Jamie and I. We have a number of investors and stakeholders who really want to see Tang happen. Sometimes, doing the less-fun work just seems like an everyday job, but it’s important to keep the end-goal in mind and remember who’s counting on you to keep moving.”
What’s next for Tang?
We have built a first-user market and validated the demand for a product like Tang. Now, after Stampede, we are going to work on some large modifications, and add some functions that will likely shift how the app works overall. We know that there is a space between Snapchat and Instagram, where posts need to remain temporary, but deserve to be seen by an audience that is larger than just friends, and now we will take that and improve the Tang experience.
We intend on breaking into the American (and some Canadian) college market, where we believe Tang will really thrive. An entire campus using Tang would increase campus culture, and would connect people in a way that was previously not possible. We are really looking forward to September.